Friday, May 19, 2017

Genius Hour Update #1


Wintergreen: more than just those red berries you see lining the trails when you go hiking!

At least, that was how I had always known wintergreen. That, and as a flavor of gum that I much preferred over spearmint. I got the idea to use them for my Genius Hour after hearing about a former student who distilled oil from pine needles. The next time I went on a hike (I like to hike, ok) I saw the familiar red berries and connected the ideas together: what if I distilled the oil from wintergreen leaves?

This past week, I researched wintergreen leaves, their properties, their uses, and methods for distilling oil. I found out that pure wintergreen oil is quite toxic--just a few teaspoons ingested can kill an adult!--so my original idea of using the oil to flavor my own homemade gum was nixed. I didn't wan't to risk poisoning anyone, even though the oil can be diluted to make it safe. Instead, I plan to take advantage of the oil's toxic property to combat bacteria. Online sources I found claimed that the oil is an antiseptic, so it would be interesting to see if directly applying it to bacteria in a Petri dish kills the bacteria, and if so, how effectively.

I need to do a little more research, especially into the process of using a distiller. Over the weekend I hope to collect the leaves so that by Monday I can start getting some oil!